Pritzker Administration Announces Fourth Month Sales Totals For Illinois Adult Use Cannabis

State’s new adult-use cannabis industry generated more than $37 million in sales in April

ILLINOIS: The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has announced preliminary numbers show statewide adult-use cannabis sales in April totaled $37,260,497.89. Dispensaries across the state sold 818,954 items over the 30-day period. Sales to Illinois residents totaled $29,735,650.41, while sales to out-of-state residents totaled $7,524,847.47. These figures do not include taxes collected. A portion of every cannabis sale will be reinvested in communities harmed most by the failed war on drugs.

Medical and adult use cannabis dispensaries remain open as part of the essential businesses and operations named in Governor Pritzker’s executive order signed on March 20, 2020. Both sides of the cannabis industry were included to ensure the cannabis supplier industry protects medical cannabis patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the revenue generated by adultuse cannabis sales funds the important social justice and equity goals at the core of Illinois’ adult-use law.

“Our top priority is to ensure consumers are safe when they go to a dispensary to purchase cannabis,” said Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control to Gov. Pritzker. “The steps we’ve taken to increase social distancing at dispensaries are accomplishing that, while also enabling this new industry to continue to grow. As such, curbside pickup will remain an option for medical cannabis users to obtain the product they need through May 30.”

Dispensaries are permitted to sell medical cannabis outside of their limited access area on their property or on a public walkway or curb adjacent to the dispensary. Medical cannabis patients will be able to continue to utilize their designated caregiver to purchase medicine for them. However, dispensaries may not deliver medical cannabis to a patient or caregiver’s home. These rules do not apply to adult-use cannabis sales; those must still take place inside the limited access area. A complete list of the rules extended may be found here.

Congressman Riggleman Sends Letter To Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, On Hemp Production

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congressman Denver Riggleman sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, to discuss potential changes to the implementation of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program.  The letter suggested improvements to benefit farmers and align the rules with the realities that hemp farmers face while growing.

“Virginia and the 5th District are uniquely positioned to lead in the arena of hemp production and I am grateful to the entire Virginia delegation for signing this letter regarding the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program,” said Congressman Riggleman.  “Industrial hemp is a potential game changer for Southside Virginia.  If we can improve the USDA hemp program to help Virginia farmers, we have the potential to bring huge economic growth to the 5th District.  This letter will provide clarity for farmers and help production.”

Congressman Riggleman’s letter was cosigned by the Virginia delegation in the House of Representatives. The changes it asked for would reduce regulation surrounding hemp farming as well as its post production and distribution.

You can read the full letter here.

FSD Pharma Appoints Former Member Of U.S. Congress To Its Board of Directors, Announces Share Consolidation

CANADA: FSD Pharma announced the appointment of former U.S. congressman Stephen Buyer to the Company’s Board of Directors. The Company also announced that it will complete a consolidation of its class A multiple voting shares and its class B subordinate voting shares each on a 1 to 201 basis.

“In welcoming Steve Buyer to the FSD Pharma Board of Directors and announcing a share consolidation, the Company has made an immense positive stride forward” said Raza Bokhari, MD, Executive Co-Chairman and CEO. “Steve’s addition has further strengthened the independence and profile of the FSD Pharma Board of Directors; his broad leadership experience and pharmaceutical industry relationships will help enhance our visibility, especially among U.S. Institutional investors and on U.S. Capitol Hill. The share consolidation or reverse split of our stock is timed to advance our strategic plan to raise the profile of our company in the U.S. capital markets, which includes listing on a major U.S. stock exchange in the near future” continued Dr. Bokhari.

“I’m pleased to be joining the FSD Pharma Board of Directors. The opportunity to participate in FSD’s growth at this stage is exciting. Unfortunately, auto immune diseases have clustered in my wife’s family. I am attracted by FSD’s medical research to tame and define the unknown by challenging the edges of medical science to provide relief to people suffering from fibromyalgia and other serious illnesses,” stated Mr. Buyer.

Stephen Buyer was a member of the United States House of Representatives, serving nine consecutive terms from January 1993 to January 2011. During Congressman Buyer’s long tenure in the Congress, he served on the Committees on Veterans Affairs, Armed Services, Judiciary, Energy and Commerce Committees and also served on the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. He is presently the Managing Partner of the 10-Square Solution, LLC, focusing on business development, mergers and acquisitions, and representation before the federal government.

Congressman Buyer served as Chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs for the 109th Congress, as well as the Ranking Minority Member for the 110th and 111th Congresses. He centralized the VA’s IT architecture and was named to the Federal IT top 100. Congressman Buyer also served on the House Armed Services Committee from 1993 to 2001, including as Chair of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel in the 105th and 106th Congresses. He founded and co-chaired the National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus. He created the renewable energy portfolio for the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs. He was the architect of TRICARE For Life and authored the U.S. military’s pharmacy redesign. His other Congressional assignments included service on the Health, Energy, and Technology subcommittees of the Committee on Energy and Commerce from 2001 to 2010, where he assisted in creating Medicare Part D, authored the electronic pedigree pharmaceuticals distribution system, served as a House Conferee on the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and lead the Congressional effort to reorganization of the U.S. Olympic Committee. He also served the House Committee on Judiciary from 1993 to 1999.

Congressman Buyer, as an Army Reserve officer, served four years on active duty, including a tour of duty in Iraq during the first Gulf War (1990-91) where he was awarded the Bronze Star as an Operational Law Judge Advocate. Prior to JAG, he was a Medical Service Corps Officer for 4 years. Congressman Buyer, after 30 years of service, retired with the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps.

Prior to his tenure in the United States Congress, Congressman Buyer served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney, Indiana Deputy Attorney General, and engaged in a private law practice.

Congressman Buyer is a distinguished military graduate of The Citadel in 1980 with a B.S. degree, and received his J.D. from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1984. He is a member of the Indiana and Virginia state Bars.

In addition, FSD is pleased to announce that its Board of Directors has approved the Consolidation on a 1:201 basis. Effective October 16, 2019, with a record date of October 17, 2019, the Company expects to begin trading the Class B Shares on the Canadian Securities Exchange on a post-Consolidation basis under its existing name and ticker symbol. The new CUSIP and ISIN for the Class B Shares are 35954B206 and CA35954B2066, respectively.

The Company currently has 1,582,966,252 Class B Shares outstanding and the Consolidation will reduce the issued and outstanding Class B Shares to approximately 7,874,809 Class B Shares. The Consolidation was approved by FSD shareholders at the Company’s special meeting held on January 22, 2019, and will allow the Company to continue to pursue the listing of the Class B Shares on a major U.S. exchange.

The Company will not be issuing fractional post-Consolidation FSD Shares in connection with the Consolidation. Where the Consolidation would otherwise result in a shareholder being entitled to a fractional FSD Share, the number of post-Consolidation FSD Shares issued to such holder of FSD Shares shall be rounded down to the nearest whole number of FSD Shares. In calculating such fractional interests, all FSD Shares held by a beneficial shareholder shall be aggregated.

A letter of transmittal with respect to the Consolidation will be mailed to registered shareholders of the Company. All registered shareholders with physical certificates will be required to send their certificates representing pre-Consolidation FSD Shares along with a completed letter of transmittal to the Company’s transfer agent, Computershare Investor Services Inc. (“Computershare”), in accordance with the instructions provided in the letter of transmittal. Additional copies of the letter of transmittal can be obtained through Computershare. All shareholders who submit a duly completed letter of transmittal along with their pre-Consolidation FSD Share certificate(s) to Computershare will receive a post-Consolidation share certificate. Shareholders who hold their FSD Shares through a broker or other intermediary and do not have FSD Shares registered in their name will not need to complete a letter of transmittal.

The exercise or conversion price and the number of FSD Shares issuable under any of the Company’s outstanding warrants and stock options will be proportionately adjusted to reflect the Consolidation in accordance with the respective terms thereof. After the Consolidation, there will be approximately 1,033,782 stock options and warrants to purchase 576,499 Class B Shares outstanding.

The Class A Shares will also be consolidated on a 1:201 basis, such that post-Consolidation there will be 72 Class A Shares issued and outstanding, each Class A Share representing 276,660 votes on all matters. Based on the current issued and outstanding number of FSD Shares, the Class A Shares collectively represent approximately 72% of the voting rights.

DEA Announces Steps Necessary To Improve Access To Marijuana Research

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that it is moving forward to facilitate and expand scientific and medical research for marijuana in the United States. The DEA is providing notice of pending applications from entities applying to be registered to manufacture marijuana for researchers. DEA anticipates that registering additional qualified marijuana growers will increase the variety of marijuana available for these purposes.

Over the last two years, the total number of individuals registered by DEA to conduct research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased by more than 40 percent from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019. Similarly, in the last two years, DEA has more than doubled the production quota for marijuana each year based on increased usage projections for federally approved research projects.

“I am pleased that DEA is moving forward with its review of applications for those who seek to grow marijuana legally to support research,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services and across the Administration to improve research opportunities wherever we can.”

“DEA is making progress in the program to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon.  “We support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.”

This notice also announces that, as the result of a recent amendment to federal law, certain forms of cannabis no longer require DEA registration to grow or manufacture. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018, changed the definition of marijuana to exclude “hemp”—plant material that contains 0.3 percent or less delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. Accordingly, hemp, including hemp plants and cannabidiol (CBD) preparations at or below the 0.3 percent delta-9 THC threshold, is not a controlled substance, and a DEA registration is not required to grow or research it.

Before making decisions on these pending applications, DEA intends to propose new regulations that will govern the marijuana growers program for scientific and medical research. The new rules will help ensure DEA can evaluate the applications under the applicable legal standard and conform the program to relevant laws. To ensure transparency and public participation, this process will provide applicants and the general public with an opportunity to comment on the regulations that should govern the program of growing marijuana for scientific and medical research.

The Notice of Application is available here:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Introduces 2019 Hemp For Victory Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) introduced H.R. 3652, the Hemp for Victory Act which lays the foundation for the emerging hemp industry in a manner that incentivizes family farmers and small businesses, protects against corporate monopolies, and studies the benefits of hemp cultivation and hemp-based products while ensuring safe agricultural practices, and environmental and labor considerations.

“The hemp industry is poised to grow rapidly, having a billion dollar impact on the U.S. economy and creating thousands of jobs. Hemp-based materials have the potential to transform industries from health care to domestic manufacturing to affordable, sustainable housing construction, and more. Studies have shown it can play a role in helping remove toxins from our environment and prevent soil erosion, as well as provide alternatives to single-use plastics, which pollute our lands and ocean,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “My bill will lay the foundation for how we can optimize the hemp industry’s potential and ensure this opportunity benefits family farms and small businesses across America — from Hawai‘i to Kentucky and beyond.”

“Congresswoman Gabbard’s commitment to re-energizing the American farmer and delivering on the economic and planetary healing promise of the versatile, valuable hemp plant is exactly what our nation needs, and the time is now to support her bold efforts,” said Joy Beckerman, a board member with the Hemp Industries Association.

“We commend Congresswoman Gabbard for her leadership on introducing the Hemp For Victory Act,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “The fledgling hemp industry can create thousands of farming and manufacturing jobs but needs research and the same support given to other crops which the bill helps provide.”

hemp_for_victory_big

Background: H.R. 3652, the Hemp for Victory Act of 2019, named after the World War II-era effort to revitalize the U.S. hemp industry, broadly addresses many aspects of the re-emerging U.S. hemp industry. The legislation’s objective is to build and encourage a national hemp industry, but to ensure that is done correctly, meaning that there are proper labor, consumer, and health standards; investment incentives; safe agricultural practices; environmental considerations; and more. At its core, the bill is aimed at providing opportunities for small businesses, family farms, indigenous populations, and veterans to participate in and prosper from this industry.

The bill will engage the expertise of several U.S. agencies, as well as land-grant universities, in order to lay the foundations of and generate the demand necessary for our hemp industry to ensure domestic economic potential is met across several sectors. Recognizing the potential for this commodity to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry, the bill directs the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Defense, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, and Small Business Administration to conduct research and develop studies on the uses and benefits of hemp. This includes preservation and rehabilitation of our environment through toxic site cleanup and soil erosion control, sustainable and affordable housing, nutritional benefits to our children in school lunches and healthcare benefits to our veterans, alternatives to single-use plastics to reduce our ecological footprint, and the creation of thousands of jobs, among so many more.

 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was an original cosponsor of H.R. 3530, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, a stand-alone bill in the 115th Congress which would have reclassified hemp as an agricultural crop. She supported H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 — more broadly referred to as “the Farm Bill” — which passed both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan majorities and was signed into law. Among its many provisions, the bill legalized the production of industrial hemp and put its regulation under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rep. Gabbard supports empowering local farmers and expanding their opportunities. She also joined a bipartisan amicus brief asking the Court to recognize and uphold the Congressional intent of prior legislation that allowed states to grow, cultivate, and research industrial hemp under specific conditions.

New Jersey Requesting Applications For 24 ATC Endorsements – What Applicants Need To Know

By: Rosemarie Moyeno Matos, Esq.

NEW JERSEY: Hot on the heels of Governor Phil Murphy’s May 2019 announcement that his administration would be moving forward with expansion of New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (the “MMP”), the Department of Health (the “DOH”) published a new Request for Applications (the “RFA”) for new alternative treatment center (“ATC”) permits and endorsements on July 1, 2019. It’s important to note that this RFA process still falls under the purview of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“CUMMA”),[1] despite Governor Murphy signing the “Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act” (the “Act”) into law on July 2, 2019. The Act will eventually turn oversight of the MMP from the DOH to a Regulatory Cannabis Commission upon its creation.

Pursuant to the RFA, the DOH will award up to 24 permits and endorsements for cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary operations throughout the northern, central and southern regions of the state. This article will summarize the RFA requirements and any significant differences from prior application requirements.

NUMBER OF ENDORSEMENTS BY REGION & OPERATION:

For the first time since the inception of the MMP, the state will be issuing separate “permit endorsements” for cultivation and dispensing operations, presenting an opportunity for small businesses and minorities to enter the industry on a smaller, more affordable scale. The RFA is looking to award:

Total Permit/Endorsements Type of Permit/Endorsement
4 Vertically Integrated Permits (“VIPs”)[2]
15 Dispensary Endorsements
5 Cultivation Endorsements[3]

The 24 ATC permits and endorsements awarded under the RFA are to be distributed regionally and by operation in the following manner:

Region Number and Type
Northern (Warren, Morris, Essex Counties and up):2       Cultivation Endorsements5       Dispensary Endorsements1-2    VIPs*
Central (Hunterdon, Somerset, and Union through Mercer and Ocean Counties):2       Cultivation Endorsements5       Dispensary Endorsements1-2    VIPs*
Southern (Burlington and Atlantic Counties all the way down):1       Cultivation Endorsements5       Dispensary Endorsements1-2    VIPs*

*One VIP will be awarded in each region. The region of the 4th VIP will be determined at the time of award based on the applicant’s overall score and patient need.

Except for VIP permits, each individual endorsement requires a separate application. Applicants should note:

  • you are limited to a maximum of three (3) applications, one (1) per region;
  • you may not submit for a VIP and for individual endorsements;
  • you may only submit for one (1) cultivation endorsement; and
  • you will only be awarded one (1) VIP or one (1) individual endorsement.

APPLICATION COSTS:

Two checks totaling $20,000 must accompany each application submitted. The checks represent a $2,000 non-refundable application processing fee and the $18,000 permit endorsement fee if awarded. The DOH will destroy the $18,000 checks submitted by applicants not awarded an endorsement.

In addition to application fees (up to $24,000 depending on the number of applications submitted and whether a permit/endorsement is awarded), applicants will need typically need budget for real estate, professional services and contractors, and construction costs. Property and construction costs vary depending largely factors such as location and form of interest (lease vs ownership). Professional or contractor’s costs largely depend on the fees of each professional or contractors and the specific needs of the applicant, but an applicant can realistically expect to pay well over $100,000 for professional and contractor services leading up to and during the application process.[4]

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS:

Similar to last year’s permit applications, current applications will consist of Part A Mandatory Information, Part B Scored Criteria and Personal History Disclosure Forms for each owner with 5% or more ownership interest in the ATC, as well as each principal, director, board member, and employee.

Part A Mandatory Information largely seeks entity and property information including listing of all individuals and entities having greater that 5% ownership interest in the ATC, all creditors and all individuals and entities having managerial/operational control over the ATC. Applicants will also need to include all formation documentation, all contracts related to management, intellectual property, real estate, equity in, or funding of applicant, Letters of Support and evidence of zoning compliance, site plans and a list of its medical advisory board members with a copy of the board’s by-laws.

Part B Scored Criteria (300 points) includes:

1.   Submission of security, environmental impact and quality control and quality assurance plans (30 pts);

2.   ATC’s compliance history in government-regulated marijuana programs or other highly regulated industry (20 pts);

3.   Financial plan/proof of funding evidencing applicant’s ability to meet supply demand (20 pts);

4.   Evidence of community support and participation (20 pts);

5.   Ability to provide appropriate research data through evidence of past contributions (10 pts);

6.   Compliance experience in cultivating, manufacturing, or dispensing marijuana, as applicable, in government-regulated marijuana programs (100 pts); and

7.   Submission of labor peace agreement, labor compliance plan and a workforce and job creation plan with evidence of WBE, MBE or VOB certifications (100 pts).[5]

IMPORTANT DATES:

Action Date
Application Opening Period on or before July 15, 2019
RFA Question Submission Deadline July 26, 2019
Pre-Application Webinar August 2, 2019
Dispensary Apps Submission Deadline 3:00 pm EST on August 21, 2019
Cultivation & VIP Apps Submission Deadline 3:00 pm EST on August 21, 2019
Final Agency Decision None Provided

CONCLUSION: While the number of endorsements to be issued from the June 3rd RFA (108) versus this RFA (24) dropped significantly, there is reason to believe that additional RFAs will be published soon after the Regulatory Cannabis Commission is established and operational, as the medicinal marijuana  patient population continues to grow in leaps and bounds. The question we frequently receive from interested applicants is whether they should be preparing for this application round or future rounds. The answer depends largely on where the applicant stands with its business plan, site control, capital and team (including owners, managers, and employees, as well as outside professionals and contractors). However, if you are not application ready for this round, you should actively continue to work toward it for the next. If history has taught us anything, an applicant truly vested in this space should be preparing themselves to be application ready at a moment’s notice since RFAs tend to drop with little to no advance warning!

The law firm of Moyeno Gonzalez & Associates PC has represented previous applicants in this space and is ready to assist in answering any questions you may have regarding the RFA, the application process and post-licensing compliance. Please feel free to reach out to us via our website.

In her current role as Partner at Moyeno Gonzalez, Rosemarie Moyeno Matos represents both for-profit and non-profit organizations, rendering a wide range of legal services from entity selection and formation to regulatory compliance advice and commercial transaction representation. In August 2018, she represented a client who submitted two applications for vertically integrated Alternative Treatment Center licenses through New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program. Currently, she represents several entrepreneurs and start-ups in the medical and recreational cannabis space. Through her corporate and regulatory background, Rosemarie has a keen awareness of the issues faced by those participating in the cannabis industry and successfully helps her clients navigate them.
[1]N.J.S.A. 24:6I-1 et seq.
[2] VIPs include one (1) each of a cultivation endorsement, a manufacturing endorsement and a dispensary endorsement.
[3]Cultivation Endorsements are further broken down by tiers based on canopy size. Of the 5 individual Cultivation Endorsements awarded under this RFA, endorsements will be awarded based upon canopy size in the following manner:
1       for a Canopy up to 5,000 ft2
2       for Canopies between 5,001 ft2 and 20,000 ft2; and
2       for Canopies between 20,001 ft2 and 30,000 ft2.
VIP applicants are not restricted to canopy tiers and may choose any canopy size up to 30,000 ft2.
[4]Additional capital needed to evidence financial suitability and to commence operations are not factored into these application costs.
[5] Applicants who fail to submit a signed labor peace agreement will lose 30 points. Additionally, applicants who submit proof of WBE/MBE/VOB certifications will receive full credit of 30 points, while those who submit evidence of meeting the criteria in the future may receive partial credit.

Senators Harris, Nadler Introduce Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Legislation

MJLegal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” said Sen. Harris. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry. I am thrilled to work with Chairman Nadler on this timely and important step toward racial and economic justice.”

“Despite the legalization of marijuana in states across the country, those with criminal convictions for marijuana still face second class citizenship. Their vote, access to education, employment, and housing are all negatively impacted,” said Chairman Nadler. “Racially motivated enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionally impacted communities of color. It’s past time to right this wrong nationwide and work to view marijuana use as an issue of personal choice and public health, not criminal behavior. I’m proud to sponsor the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.”

“I am encouraged by Senator Harris’ Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act,” said Wanda James, CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary, Denver, CO, and the first African American woman to own a marijuana dispensary in Colorado. “Her focus and dedication to ending the generational damage done by mass incarceration due to federal cannabis prohibition is what is needed from our leadership. I am also excited about her emphasis in providing a path to ownership and wealth creation in communities that have been the most affected by this failed and racist drug war. It is time to change this history.”

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. Immigrants will also benefit from the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, as they will no longer be subject to deportation or citizenship denial based on even a minor marijuana offense. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
    • The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
    • The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
    • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

Along with Harris and Nadler, co-sponsors of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act include U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR); and U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY), Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Steve Cohen (D-TN), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Debra A. Haaland (D-NM), Ro Khanna (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Drug Policy Alliance, Center for American Progress, 4thMVMT, ACLU, California Minority Alliance, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, UndocuBlack Network, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

“The disproportionate rates of marijuana arrests and incarceration faced by low-income communities and communities of color only scratch the surface of the devastation that prohibition has caused,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana convictions have disrupted people’s lives — from one’s ability to secure or maintain employment, housing, funds for education, a valid driver’s license to the ability to keep one’s kids or remain in this country for noncitizens. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act ends prohibition in a way that centers communities most impacted by criminalization with reform that is as comprehensive as the decades of harm inflicted.”

“America’s black and brown communities have paid the heaviest price for this country’s drug war. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act marks an unprecedented step toward repairing this harm and represents the responsible way to move forward on marijuana policy,” said Ed Chung, Vice President of Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress. “We look forward to working with Congress to swiftly pass this bill.”

“At a point in time when simultaneously one person could have their life ruined in New York for the exact same action that makes someone in California a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the federal prohibition of marijuana,” said Justin StrekalPolitical Director for NORML. “The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act embodies the need to legalize cannabis and restore the rights of those who have suffered under the cruel and failed policy of criminalization.”

“Marijuana legalization is imperative if we are to move closer to true criminal justice reform, racial equality, and economic justice,” said Jesselyn McCurdy, Deputy Director of the Washington Legislative Office at the ACLU. “Too many communities of color have been disproportionately targeted and over-policed as a result of the war on drugs. We support this comprehensive bicameral legislation that aims to not only chart a more equitable path forward, but also repair some of the harm caused by the punitive marijuana laws of the past.

“We thank Senator Harris and Chairman Nadler for introducing the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “To successfully mitigate the damage of a biased criminal justice system, we need legislation that directly addresses the racial and economic disparities caused by marijuana criminalization. As an anti-poverty organization, we applaud the bill’s promotion of equal access to economic opportunities in the marijuana industry, support for community reinvestment strategies, and provisions ensuring that people with marijuana convictions no longer face the collateral consequences of a criminal record. By doing all this, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act would be an important first step to repairing the harm to communities of color and low-income communities from decades of discriminatory drug law enforcement and mass incarceration policies.”

For bill text, click here. 

 

MJNews Analysis: In New Hampshire It’s Live Free…Or Not

By Roger Tilton 

Now that the New Hampshire State Senate Judiciary Committee has “re-referred” the legal reefer bill to next year’s session, we wonder if Reefer Madness prohibitionists will continue to prevail until the Great Bay Oyster Reef Restoration is complete. What? That would be until Halloween in 2021, more than two years away.

The five-year reef-refresh began in 2016. You know what else happened in 2016? (Besides that.) Neighboring states Maine and Massachusetts legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older to enjoy. Last month, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission reported sales statewide reached the $100 million mark since retail stores opened last November. And at a 17% state-tax rate, and a 3% local tax, that cannabis revenue starts to add up. Legalization proponents often cite tax revenue as a main argument to end the war on marijuana. I’ll add another main argument: Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, California. In the laboratory of the states, marijuana is a winner.

Here in New Hampshire, the state is taking a turn for the worse. Remember that slogan, the one plagiarized from a letter that Revolutionary War hero General John Stark wrote in 1809: “Live free or die. Death is not the greatest of evils.” The state adopted “Live Free or Die” as the state motto in 1945. Then in 2018, the State Division of Travel and Tourism shortened it to “Live Free.” Check out their website.

New Hampshire likes to boast about being “first in the nation (#fitn).” Maybe for presidential primary elections, but not much else, especially cannabis. And it would seem such a natural fit: ‘first in the nation’ and ‘live free or die’ cries out for legal weed! Five years ago, I ran for state senate on a platform of “let’s be third-in-the-nation!” Voters and established politicians were not quite ready to be third. The state, however, has made some progress, allowing medical sales in 2013 and decriminalizing in 2017.

Roger Tilton talks to MJNews

New Hampshire’s problem with weed comes down to this: old people don’t like it. Polls in New Hampshire show residents approve adult-use legalization by a 3-1 margin. However, without citizens’ initiative laws allowing us to make or change laws through ballot measures, which is how most adult-use legal states became that way, New Hampshire doesn’t stand a chance—for a while. The legislature skews older, and old people (born prior to 1954) are the only segment of our population still opposed to legalization. Then there’s the governor problem. That would be Chris Sununu, born in 1974, and clueless. Had the state senate not “re-referred” the reefer-legalization bill, and had it made it out of the full senate—the state house already passed it—our boy-gov Chris vowed to veto. Why? I’d call it “Orange Syndrome.” Chris, who has visited the White House and the Orange One there at least ten times (at last count). And like the Orange One, our boy-gov is resistant to learning and to science.

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As a West Coast transplant to NH in 2003, I have watched for 16 years now how patrician and provincial most politicians act. Slow to change, oblivious to what’s going on in this country, especially “out west.” Yes, progress moves from West to East in this country. New Hampshire will get there—eventually—probably on the coattails of the removal of cannabis as a Schedule One Narcotic from the Controlled Substances Act. And it would be so New Hampshire: not first in the nation, not live free or die, just follow the federal government—like the minimum wage. Yes, New Hampshire does not have a minimum wage law, meaning New Hampshire employers would pay as little as they could, like a-dollar-an-hour, but they have to pay at leas $7.25 an hour, thanks to the federal minimum wage laws. And that pretty much sums up New Hampshire.

And that Great Bay Oyster Reef restoration that I noted earlier, The Nature Conservancy is spearheading the effort, not the state of New Hampshire.

 

NJ Governor Murphy & Legislative Leadership Announce Agreement On Outlines Of Legalization Of Adult-Use Marijuana

Agreement Reached on Tax Rate, Regulatory Structure, and Expungement Provisions

NEW JERSEY: Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senator Scutari, and Assemblywoman Quijano today announced an agreement on the broad outlines of legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana in New Jersey.

“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” said Governor Murphy. “After months of hard work and thoughtful negotiations, I’m thrilled to announce an agreement with my partners in the Legislature on the broad outlines of adult-use marijuana legislation. I believe that this legislation will establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunity to all of our communities, while promoting public safety by ensuring a safe product and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes.

“This plan will allow for the adult use of cannabis in a responsible way,” said Senate President Sweeney. “It will create a strictly regulated system that permits adults to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. It will bring marijuana out of the underground market so that it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been since the end of Prohibition. This plan will also advance important social justice reforms to help reverse the discriminatory impact that drug laws have had on diverse communities.”

“The agreement reached to legalize adult-use cannabis is the result of incredibly hard work by many people over many months,” said Speaker Coughlin. “Getting to this point wasn’t easy. We talked and we negotiated in good faith, but most importantly, we listened. I want to thank Governor Murphy and Senate President Sweeney for their tireless efforts and willingness to compromise so we could put forth the most responsible legislation possible. I believe this new, regulated industry will help boost our economy, but I’m particularly proud of the critical social justice components included in the bill.”

“The prohibition on marijuana has long been a failed policy,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari. “This plan will bring an end to the adverse effects our outdated drug laws have had on the residents of our state. As a regulated product legalized marijuana will be safe and controlled. It is time to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey and this is a well crafted legal reform that will advance social policy in a fair and effective way.”

“After months of discussions and debate, I am proud that we have come to an agreement on a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. “We learned from stakeholders and listened to opponents. The final product is fair, responsible and focused on social justice. I want to thank Speaker Coughlin for his leadership in the Assembly and express my gratitude to Governor Murphy and Senate President Sweeney for partnering with us in this daunting endeavor.”

Under the terms of the agreement, adult-use marijuana will be subject to an excise tax of $42 per ounce, which will be imposed when marijuana is cultivated. In addition, municipalities that are home to a cultivator or manufacturer will receive the revenue from a 2% tax on the product within their jurisdiction.  Municipalities that are home to a wholesaler will receive the revenue from a 1% tax on the product within their jurisdiction, while municipalities that are home to a retailer will receive the revenue from a 3% tax on the product within their jurisdiction.

Adult-use marijuana will be governed by a Cannabis Regulatory Commission, composed of five members. Three members will be appointed by the Governor, with the Governor’s initial appointments to serve terms of at least four years and not be subject to Senate confirmation. Two other members will be appointed by the Governor, upon the recommendations of the Speaker and Senate President. The Commission will promulgate all regulations to govern the industry and will oversee the applications for licensing of adult-use marijuana dispensaries.

Provisions in the bill establish an expedited expungement process for individuals convicted of low-level marijuana offenses, and a virtual expungement process that will automatically prevent certain marijuana offenses from being taken into account in certain areas such as education, housing, and occupational licensing. Additionally, there are a number of provisions that aim to ensure broad-based participation in the industry for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs), low- and middle-income individuals, and disadvantaged communities across the state.

Final text of the legislation will be released in the coming days, subject to pending technical edits.

 

Representative Tulsi Gabbard To Lead Landmark Bipartisan Marijuana Reform

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), along with Rep. Don Young (AK-AL), NORML, and other supporters, will hold a press conference introducing two bipartisan marijuana bills.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019 would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances list and allow states the freedom to regulate marijuana as they choose, without federal interference.

The Marijuana Data Collection Act of 2019 would study the effects of state legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs from a variety of perspectives, including state revenues, public health, substance abuse and opioids, criminal justice, and employment.

Details:

Day-of Contact: Lauren McIlvaine: (202) 713-6040

Thursday, March 7, 2019:

Who:

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
  • Rep. Don Young (AK-AL)
  • Erik Altieri, Executive Director, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

When: 11:00 AM ET

Where: House Triangle, U.S. Capitol